39.2 Percent of Statistics are Made Up

Let’s try an experiment. Say I argued as follows:

Since 1970, both the number of female pharmacy students and the number of home runs per season in major league baseball have gone up every single year.  It’s obvious that the increased good karma from greater female participation in a STEM field has upped the number of home runs in baseball.  In fact, you can mathematically model the karma-caused correlation between the two, and thus I can predict with complete confidence that a player will hit 84 home runs in the season in which females comprise 62% of the American pharm-school population, which will be 2019.

Pretty silly, no?  But give me a fedora with one of those “Press” cards tucked in the band and I bet you I can get lots of people believing it.

For instance, how many times have you seen a newspaper story like this:

The Pharm Team

for baseball fans, a surpisingly pink link

LONDON (AP) — For Elmer Jerkins, this might be the year his beloved Atlanta Braves win the pennant.

His daughter just got accepted to Johns Hopkins pharmacy school.

To most it sounds farfetched.  But some scientists aren’t so skeptical.  The link between female participation in pharmacy school and the number of home runs in major league baseball — jokingly called “karma-ceuticals” by some — doesn’t sound so crazy to Dr. Lloyd Pennyfelcher, Chief of Complicated Surgery at London’s elite Squidmere-upon-Redbush General Hospital.

“Do I think ladies in pharm school affects home runs in American ‘base-ball’?”  Pennyfelcher mused.  “And do I believe that karmic credit is behind it all?”  Scratching his well-manicured goatee, he slowly replied “Well, I suppose it’s not completely impossible.”

Pennyfelcher, 53, graduated summa cum laude from Oxford in 1984….

There are reporters at the New York Times who make a living on this kind of thing.  And from there it’s easy.  You start with the weekend puff pieces:

Down on the Pharm

Brattelboro, North Carolina — Tyler Stehr-Royd, a handsome, muscular blonde with a winning smile, spends a lot of time thinking about pharmacy school.

Not because he plans on attending.  At nineteen, Stehr-Royd is the first round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves, and he currently plays right field for the Brattelboro Beekeepers, the Braves’ Carolina League affiliate.  A highly touted power hitter, “Ty-phoon,” as his teammates call him, hopes the current uptick in female enrollment at the pre-pharmacy program at Brattleboro Community College heralds great things for his professional career.

“Have you heard about this ‘karma-ceutical’ thing?” he asks, after knocking yet another longball over the fence at the team’s afternoon batting practice.  “Yeah, some doctor at like Oxford or something figured it out.  The more chicks that go into pharmacy school, the more homers we hit in the majors.”

Once you hit the op-ed pages, you’ve arrived:

Stop Pharming Our Daughters!

by Jane Sun Moon Wyatt-Earp-Tyndall-Smythe, Professor of Women’s Studies, Shrike College

Critics of America’s sports-industrial complex are by now painfully aware of so-called “karma-ceuticals,” the scientifically established link between female participation in pharmacy programs and home run production in major league baseball.  So well known is it, in fact, that Major League Baseball, a multi-billion dollar citadel of patriarchial values, has teamed with several so-called “institues of higher learning” to establish the Barry Bonds Memorial Chair in Gendered Pharmacology at my beloved Shrike College.

How can we, as concerned feminists, allow our daughters to be recruited into any field, especially a putatively “scientific” one, simply to help an already exceedingly rich organization squeeze yet one more dollar out of the laboring poor?  The histories of exploitation and baseball date from the game’s creation….

It’s just that easy.  Once you get a story or two in the paper — just enough to give it that all-important political twist — you’ll have people vehemently defending your theory for you.

But c’mon, I hear you saying.  Surely the American people aren’t that dumb?

Wanna bet, Sparky?  Behold the wonderful lunacy of the Fox Butterfield Effect:

“The Butterfield Effect” is named in honor of ace New York Times crime reporter Fox Butterfield, the intrepid analyst responsible for such brilliantly headlined stories as “More Inmates, Despite Drop In Crime,” and “Number in Prison Grows Despite Crime Reduction,” not to mention the poetic 1997 header, “Crime Keeps on Falling, but Prisons Keep on Filling.”

Fox Butterfield, a veteran reporter of thirty years, doesn’t have the first concept of cause and effect.  Fox Butterfield has a Pulitzer Prize.

From there it’s simply a matter of endless question-begging and assertion, like so.  You say karma ins’t a real thing?  Then how else do you explain both the uptick in female pharmacy enrollment and the increase in longballs?  Oh, it’s just a coincidence, is it?  Correlation doesn’t prove causation and all that?  Well it’s not our fault you won’t look at the data.  What data?  Well, there’s Baseball America, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, and….

What do you mean those don’t prove anything?  Why won’t you look at the data?  And yes, you’re correct that smaller park sizes and better athlete conditioning account for a lot of the uptick in home runs.  But those are just two of the effects of good karma.  They’re the signature of good karma, you might say, at least in a baseball context…

What do you mean that still has nothing to do with karma, which doesn’t exist?  Again:  how else do you explain the increase in female enrollment and the increase in home runs?  We can agree, surely, that there were more home runs hit in 1992 than in 1982?  And more homers hit in 1982 than 1972?  These are facts; you can’t just hand-wave them away by claiming I’m pulling this stuff out of my ass. You’re obviously against women in pharmacy school for some reason, but that doesn’t eliminate those pesky findings!  Baby steps….

And so on.  And you know I’m right, because this blog has been thoroughly peer-reviewed.

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